Monday, October 24, 2022
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Stories From Abroad
ConnectWaukegan, a public-private broadband provider, conducted a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Fixed Wireless prototype in Waukegan (IL) as a proof of concept. The research was done to present the findings and recommendations for potential leverage of CBRS Fixed Wireless capabilities to increase access to broadband by underserved residents in the city. The approach was to provide a variety of broadband alternatives working with commercial providers (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) as well as providing public options and access points to provide a variety of different solutions and capabilities. ConnectWaukegan found that CBRS fixed wireless could be used selectively to fill bandwidth access gaps in different low-income neighborhoods or public areas throughout Waukegan with a mobile public access alternative where traditional wired vendors or wireless vendors are not available or cost-effective. Also, CBRS antennas could be deployed on geographically strategic buildings or locations with cost-effective access to a high-speed internet backend that is already being paid for by a private partner, the school, town, or county. The organization recommends a gradual and cost-effective targeted neighborhood-by-neighborhood roll-out plan based on demand as well as access to cost-effective back-end broadband and radio mounting locations; particularly around schools and libraries. Finally, as an internet service provider, ConnectWaukegan would be able to capture the $30/month benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to connect underserved, low-income residents, and repay the cost of the CBRS solution as well as fund additional efforts.
On October 17, trade groups NTCA, USTelecom, CTIA, and ACA Connects met Federal Communications Commission officials to discuss the Affordable Connectivity Program transparency proceeding. The associations offered proposals to maximize the effectiveness of the proposed data collection while keeping it streamlined and efficient for the benefit of consumers and providers alike. Among their concerns, the groups said that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provision creating the data collection specifically calls for “final rules regarding the annual collection by the FCC." Thus, they said, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking's (NPRM) proposal for a subscriber-level collection—which the NPRM states would require providers “to input additional data in National Lifeline Accountability Database at enrollment in addition to the information already required to enroll a household”—would run afoul of the IIJA. The associations included a variety of concerns and suggestions in their discussion with the FCC. Read more here.
Starry has defaulted on all of its $269 million of Rural Digital Opportunity funding (RDOF). There have been other defaults of RDOF, but no others of this magnitude. Starry is not required to disclose why it’s defaulting. Though, in the many articles about the RDOF default, there was a lot of speculation that the company doesn’t have the needed funding to complete the required builds. Starry reported 77,400 customers at the end of the second quarter of 2022 – gaining 14,300 customers in the quarter. The company claimed that it now passes 5.7 million potential customers. But the company has a big burn rate with a loss for the quarter of $33.9 million plus capital expenditures of $20.8 million. Even if funding is the issue, funding wouldn’t yet be an emergency for Starry. An RDOF winner has three years starting with the year after the awards – in this case until 2025, to cover 40% of the RDOF areas. But delaying the cancellation probably risks increasing fines from the FCC. I’ve also heard speculation from engineers that Starry might not have been happy with the performance of its technology in rural areas. It seems like a technology best suited to areas with decent household densities. With the default, all of the RDOF areas are back in play for other federal grants. Unfortunately for the customers in these areas that thought they had a broadband solution coming, they now need another broadband provider to step up and claim grant funding of some sort to bring broadband.
California's proposed middle-mile fiber-based network could provide access to regional broadband providers and Tribes at capacity and speeds that will allow networks to scale to accommodate the needs of an entire community. The route prioritizes areas with no access to the global Internet or slow and ineffective connections, which leaves many households and community anchor institutions at a severe disadvantage – unable to take advantage of broadband-enabled services such as telehealth, remote work, and remote educational environments. A major goal of this project is to connect all Tribes in California to the global Internet at high broadband speeds through middle-mile infrastructure. However, the process by which this will take place will differ depending on the Tribe’s location -- especially whether the Tribe is adjacent to a Caltrans Right of Way. If the Tribe is not adjacent to a Caltrans Right of Way, note that fiber optic infrastructure has hundreds, if not thousands of connection points. In such cases, CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiative in California) will identify the most conveniently located connection point for the Tribe and help align the funds and other opportunities needed to connect at that point.
In the modern world, high-speed internet access has become an essential utility, just like water, gas and electricity. All those living on the Cherokee Nation Reservation need the ability to participate in the digital economy. Many Americans now take for granted services like telehealth, remote work and access to the vast amount of information and resources for learning and communication online. Unfortunately, broadband access on tribal reservations has badly lagged behind the rest of the country. That’s why we were so pleased that Cherokee Nation was awarded a $34 million federal grant through the US Commerce Department’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The funding comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and will be used to install fiber optic lines and telecommunication infrastructure for high-speed internet service to reach rural households. More than 6,000 Cherokee households will soon be connected to their tribe, language, services, and family. Tribes like the Cherokee Nation are in the best position to know the needs of our communities. With federal dollars and Cherokee hard work and expertise, we are building the digital infrastructure to have a Cherokee Nation Reservation where both traditional culture and modern economic opportunities can thrive. Broadband access can be the bridge between our past and our future.
[Chuck Hoskin is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.]
Many carriers and last-mile providers may be interested in purchasing out-of-the-box “lit” services from a middle-mile network, like a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or connectivity to cloud providers or the global Internet. If they wish to configure a custom service, they might choose to lease a pair of fiber-optic strands via a dark fiber IRU (a long-term lease) and light the fiber themselves, but there are other options on the Optical Layer between dark fiber and lit services: Optical Services. Optical Services mean purchasing one or more “slices” of the total spectrum of light carried by a fiber pair: a defined amount of bandwidth on either side of a central wavelength. The capacities that a carrier or last-mile provider can obtain through such services typically run into the hundreds of gigabits per second, making Optical Services equivalent to a dedicated high-performance fiber path. Optical services operate in 3 steps:
- Customer Data Handoff: At the Optical Layer, data signals from the last-mile provider are not modified in any way but turned directly into light pulses of a specific color (wavelength).
- Transit Along Fiber Backbone: These light pulses are then sent down the fiber and then turned back into customer data signals when they reach the node at the other end
- Data Arrives At Destination: Depending on the transponder and the width of the spectrum band, one “slice” of the spectrum can support different data throughputs.
Future-facing middle-mile networks feature the ability to provide a customer’s desired capacity on a pair of fiber strands with spectrum services: combining multiple much smaller “slices” (currently 6.25 or 12.5 GHz wide) into one composite “slice” of flexible size. This composite “slice” is treated as a single signal by one pair of Next-Generation Internet (NGI) transponders, which can enable considerably higher data throughputs thanks to recent innovations.
A statewide middle-mile network may consist of multiple layers of equipment and software to complete “handoffs” of data to and from last-mile providers, translate that data into light pulses sent over fiber-optic cable, and connect to the global Internet or cloud service providers like Netflix and Amazon Web Services. However, not every last mile-provider may wish to connect to a middle-mile network in the same way. Some may require greater capacity or seek greater control over services they create themselves and provide to their customers. Others may wish to connect their end-user customers to existing services and content providers. Thus, if a middle-mile network operator is to attract last-mile providers as customers, it must offer a broad catalog of service products to meet an equally broad variety of needs well beyond the services offered by a typical broadband provider. The different layers of a middle-mile network can be visualized literally from the ground up – starting with the medium over which the data travels to the equipment that sends the data and the software that governs that equipment and defines the networks that operate over it. There are 4 layers:
- "Transport" layer, which focuses on creating private networks;
- "Network" layer, which enables different networks to exchange data;
- "Optical" layer, which can turn data into light signals and transmit them;
- "Physical" layer, which is the fiber optic cable strands that enable the previous 3.
The GSMA, a global organization focusing on unifying mobile ecosystems, on the state of global mobile internet connectivity for 2022. Growth in mobile internet adoption continues and is nearly entirely driven by people living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Across the world, 55% of the population was using mobile internet at the end of 2021. The report shows that 95% of the global population now lives in areas served by mobile broadband connectivity, and that enabled by that coverage footprint, 55% of the world’s population is now connected to mobile internet. Providing coverage to the remaining 5% (the ‘coverage gap’) remains an important challenge. Additional key points from the report include:
- Use of mobile internet is still growing and driving digital inclusion. By the end of 2021, 4.3 billion people were using mobile internet, or 55% of the world’s population, up from 43% in 2017
- Almost 300 million people came online in the past year. Most of the people who started using mobile internet in 2021 came from LMICs where 94% of the unconnected population live. As a result, for the first time, half of the population LMICs is now using mobile internet.
- Globally, the coverage gap reduced substantially over the last 7 years. The percentage of people outside the reach of mobile broadband networks fell from 19% in 2015 to 5% at the end of 2021. However, there is no room for complacency: 400 million people worldwide still do not live in an area covered by a mobile broadband network, and progress has slowed since 2018.
However, barriers persist for those trying to be connected. Such "usage gap" issues include a lack of digital literacy, affordability, access to relevant content and services, and safety and security concerns access.
Something is missing from our lives, and from our technology. The goal of consumer tech development used to be pretty simple: design and build something of value to people, giving them a reason to buy it. There has been a sea change in the entire model for innovation and the incentives that drive it. Why settle for a single profit-taking transaction for the company when you can instead design a product that will extract a monetizable data stream from every buyer, returning revenue to the company for years? Once you’ve captured that data stream, you’ll protect it, even to the disadvantage of your customer. It’s not just consumer tech and social media platforms that have made this shift. The large ag-tech brand John Deere, for example, formerly beloved by its customers, is fighting a “right to repair” movement driven by farmers angry at being forbidden to fix their own machines, lest they disturb the proprietary software sending high-value data on the farmers’ land and crops back to the manufacturer. In tech, we are the product, not the prime beneficiary. The mechanical devices that used to be the product are increasingly just the middlemen. The fact is, the visible focus of tech culture is no longer on expanding the frontiers of humane innovation—innovation that serves us all. The danger is not only that modern technology fails to be directed to our most urgent civilizational needs. It’s that technologists’ apparent loss of interest in humane innovation is depleting our collective faith in our own powers of invention.
[Shannon Vallor is the Baillie Gifford Professor of Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh and director of the Centre for Technomoral Futures in the Edinburgh Futures Institute.]
Verizon experienced a total revenue of $34.2 billion, an increase of 4.0 percent from the third quarter of 2021. Total broadband net additions of 377,000, including 342,000 fixed wireless net additions, reflecting strong demand for reliable and high-value broadband offerings. Total broadband net additions increased by 109,000 from the second quarter of 2022, and fixed wireless net additions increased by 86,000 from the second quarter of 2022. Within this growth, Verizon added 61,000 Fios Internet subscribers, an increase from 36,000 Fios Internet net additions in the second quarter of 2022. Additionally, the company added more than 40 million households covered by fixed wireless in third-quarter 2022, including over 30 million households covered by 5G Ultra Wideband. Total Verizon Consumer revenue was $25.8 billion, an increase of 10.8 percent year over year, driven by wireless service revenue growth and higher equipment revenue. Out of total Verizon consumers, 234,000 of them were fixed wireless net additions and 58,000 Fios Internet net additions in the third quarter of 2022. Consumer Fios revenue was $2.9 billion in the third quarter of 2022, an increase of 0.3 percent year over year.
Ofcom’s Home Broadband Performance Report reveals that the median average speed of a home broadband connection in the UK has reached 59.4 Mbps. That’s an 18% increase from 50.4 Mbps the previous year, and a 60% increase on the average speed recorded in 2018 (37 Mbps). Also, 91% of homes from our study now take a superfast package (advertised download speed of at least 30 Mbps), up from 85% 12 months before. Previous Ofcom research has shown that over 7 million broadband households are out of contract and paying more than they need to. Prices tend to go up if customers do nothing when their initial contract period ends. But there are lots of heavily discounted deals on offer when signing up for a new contract. That means some people could save money and upgrade to a faster package at the same time. For those on the lowest incomes, special discounted packages known as ‘social tariffs’ are available for around £10-20 ($11.30-22.61). These also offer superfast connections, meaning eligible households don’t need to compromise on speeds while making savings of £150 ($169.57) a year.
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